In Europe, references to radicalisation typically evoke in our minds either Islamism or the far-right — at times inconsistently, but this is not the subject of this article. We tend, thereby, to overlook the threat that the far-left poses to our liberal democratic societies, both in its own radical fringes, and in its recurrent collusion with Islamist extremism.
As a necessary premise, this proximity assumes two different shapes.
Concerning the classical radical left, it shares with Islamism the theoretical similarities characterising all totalitarian ideologies, epitomized in the concepts of utopia, Machiavellianism, and polarisation — i.e., the absolute idea of a sacralised, perfect end-state, the attainment of which legitimizes every means, including the dehumanisation and annihilation of all the foes not espousing it.
Clearly, the ideas and principles whereupon the utopia is based may considerably differ between one ideology and the other. Such, in fact, was the case between the classical Marxist left and Islamism, the former being pugnaciously atheist, materialistic, and religiophobic — to the point, when in power, of brutally eradicating religions and persecuting believers.
This pivotal hiatus has progressively shrunk among modern leftists (both democratic and not), who are often closing the ranks with Islamists in the name of postcolonialism, anti-imperialism, identity politics, and multiculturalism. This is the second form of proximity — what Maajid Nawaaz, a former Muslim extremist now fighting radicalisation, defines as the “regressive left”:
I call them “regressive leftists”; they are in fact reverse racists. They have a poverty of expectation for minority groups, believing them to be homogenous and inherently opposed to human rights values. They are culturally reductive in how they see ‘Eastern’ — and in my case, Islamic — culture, and they are culturally deterministic in attempting to freeze their ideal of it in order to satisfy their orientalist fetish. While they rightly question every aspect of their “own” Western culture in the name of progress, they censure liberal Muslims who attempt to do so within Islam, and they choose to side instead with every regressive reactionary in the name of “cultural authenticity” and anticolonialism. […] They hold what they think of as “native” communities— and I use that word deliberately—to lesser standards than the ones they claim apply to all “their” people, who happen to be mainly white, and that’s why I call it reverse racism.
In the same vein, Muslim scholar and human rights activist Elham Manea argues:
The old radical left, Kenan Malik tells us, slowly lost its faith in secular universalism and Enlightenment ideas of rationalism and humanism. Instead, they began talking about multiculturalism and group rights, decrying those Enlightenment ideas as “Eurocentric”: part of a Euro-American project imposed on other people. For decades, they had argued that everyone should be equal despite their racial, ethnic, religious or cultural differences. Now they pushed the idea that different people should be treated differently precisely because of such differences.
The example of Belgium, and significantly of its notorious Molenbeek district — the epicentre of several terrorist networks involved in recent attacks — is emblematic of this collusion. Its late socialist mayor, Philippe Moureaux, was accused of having built a clientelistic system that gave free rein to radical Islam in exchange for electoral support. This bond was so entrenched that, when the Belgian-Moroccan journalist Hind Fraihi released her famous inquiry, “Undercover in Molenbeek”, unveiling an underworld of criminality and extremism, Moureaux, instead of addressing these issues, called upon the local imams to join forces against the book. Similarly, the author, comedian, and free speech activist Sam Touzani — an ex-Muslim from Molenbeek — reported that Moureaux, in person, vetoed him from performing in public cultural centres due to his outspoken atheism and criticism of Islamic conservatism and Islamist circles.
This situation is far from being unique. A documentary recently released in France, significantly titled “Islamogauchisme: La Trahison du Rêve Européen” (Islamogauchisme: The Betrayal of the European Dream), portrays many similar episodes. Just to mention one: in the second round of municipal elections in the Parisian banlieue of Sarcelles, the far-left party France Insoumise campaigned against the centre-left candidate and in support of Sami Debah, founder of the “Collectif contre l’Islamophobie” and former preacher with the ultra-orthodox Islamist movement Tablighi Jamaat.
It is particularly interesting to analyse these phenomena in light of the intrinsic contradiction with the supposed leftist values: secularism, feminism, LGBT rights, anti-clericalism, rupture of traditional mores, and so on. For some reason, those seem to stop before the gates of Islam.
For instance, Philippe Val, former director of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, reported that after the massacre of his staff by a jihadist commando in 2015 over satirical pictures of the prophet Muhammad, many on the left claimed the real victims were not the assassinated journalists but Muslims “stigmatised” by the magazine. Curiously — just to take one example out of many — no analogous accusations were hurled when the same journal published a depiction of a crucified Christ with a penis in place of the nose and testicles covering his eyes.
In the same vein, a march against Islamophobia, organized by the abovementioned Collectif contre l’Islamophobie (founded by a Salafist preacher, as said, and considered close to the Muslim Brotherhood and to several radical ideologues) witnessed the participation of many far-left groups and even feminists, who seemed to be fine with closing ranks with Islamists of different sorts, including an ultra-conservative imam who espoused that women should obey their husbands, not leave the marital house without his consent, and be sexually available upon his needs. Just a few weeks later, a group of around 50 self-proclaimed “anti-capitalist anti-fascists” disrupted a living crèche of primary school children in Toulouse, shouting “stop the fachos”. Regardless of any consideration on who is the fascist here, one could only assume that certain leftists regard kids singing in a Christmas choir as a greater threat to democracy than extremist imams.
The feminist complacence with Islamism should not be surprising since for many left-wing “progressives”, even mentioning, let alone denouncing, Islamist-endorsed sexual abuse, female genital mutilation (sometimes referred to as “cutting”, out of cultural sensitivity), and shari’a courts curtailing women rights, has become an instance of “Islamophobia”.
LGBT rights is the issue where the leftist bewilderment is perhaps most fascinating.
During the 2017 London Pride, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) raised placards saying, “Allah is gay”. Not only did the police try (unlawfully) to get them down, but the Pride organisers — so far from taking the side of those protesting against homophobia in Islamic countries and communities — threatened to ban the CEMB from participating in the next parade. The organizers explained their behaviour this way: “If anyone taking part in our parade makes someone feel ostracised, discriminated against, or humiliated, then they are undermining and breaking the very principles on which we exist. […] We will not tolerate Islamophobia”. All of this happened even as placards reading “God is gay” and “Jesus had two fathers” went completely unobserved and unchallenged.
In another occurrence in Sweden, a gay pride event was organised in Stockholm by a right-wing journalist in a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood with the unconcealed intent of defying the Islamist occupation of the public space. This was condemned as “provocative and Islamophobic” by LGBT and left-wing activists; a local resident, a member of the Social Democrats, even called it “an insult” against a group. While criticism against the political vested interests of the organisers could have been understandable, less so was disparaging the march itself: it is a sin for civil rights activists to consciously — and selectively — forget that the very nature of such demonstrations is, in fact, to provoke and distress all those not accepting people’s rights and diversity.
It is also notable that someone had already labelled a gay parade a “provocation” and “insult” against “believers and their rights”: it was Forza Nuova, the most radical neo-fascist Italian party. The far-right is quite capable of ideological incoherence in its slogans and the battles it chooses, and it is perfectly prepared to exploit identitarian or liberal causes to advance its xenophobic agenda. This is to be expected. Finding the far-right’s verdicts echoed by the far-left is what demands explanation.
These are just a few anecdotes reflecting a wider phenomenon, where large sections of the left, the forces so ostentatiously committed to fighting bigotry in all its forms, have aligned with an antisemitic, misogynist, and homophobic religious ideology.
This is but another argument for the adoption of a universalistic moral compass. Disrupting a religious celebration is an act of intolerance, whatever the perpetrator and the religion involved. Invoking the concept of “provocation” to prevent a gay parade, or censoring religious criticism and satire, are acts of bigotry, no matter the justification and actors involved. Allowing religious courts to curtail Muslim women’s rights is more an evocation of the Inquisition tribunals, and an act of racism, than an enlightened demonstration of cultural respect. Allowing crimes to take place for the sake of countering “Islamophobia” is criminal, racist, and offensive to Muslims.
Our societies need a collective effort against extremism of all hues and colours.
The leftist ideological and political acquiescence to Islamism is not rendering a good service to the liberal and progressive voices within the Muslim communities, who are currently fighting the same battles that once constituted the left’s greatest pride.
European Eye on Radicalization aims to publish a diversity of perspectives and as such does not endorse the opinions expressed by contributors. The views expressed in this article represent the author alone.
 Tommaso Virgili, ‘Three Ideologies’, European Eye on Radicalization (blog), 27 May 2019, https://eeradicalization.com/three-ideologies/. Cfr. Alexandre Del Valle, Verdi, rossi, neri. L’alleanza fra l’islamismo radicale e gli opposti estremismi (Torino: Lindau, 2009), 27–29. Hamed Abdel-Samad, Islamic Fascism (Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2016), p. 20.
 This is still the case in China, for instance, where Muslim Uyghurs are enduring a physical and cultural extermination. See Meduza, ‘An Internment Camp for 10 Million Uyghurs. Meduza Visits China’s Dystopian Police State’, accessed 2 October 2019, https://meduza.io/en/feature/2018/10/01/an-internment-camp-for-10-million-uyghurs.
 Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz, Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard Univ Pr, 2015), p. 49.
 Elham Manea, Women and Shari’a Law: The Impact of Legal Pluralism in the UK (London, New York: I B Tauris Academic, 2016), p. 45.
 ‘Terrorisme. L’ancien bourgmestre de Molenbeek critiqué pour son laxisme’, Courrier international, 17 November 2015, https://www.courrierinternational.com/revue-de-presse/terrorisme-lancien-bourgmestre-de-molenbeek-critique-pour-son-laxisme.
 Hind Fraihi, En immersion à Molenbeek (Paris: La Différence, 2016).
 Personal interview
 Mauro Zanon, ‘Un docu francese mostra la “santa alleanza” tra gauche radicale e islam politico’, Il Foglio, 24 November 2019, https://www.ilfoglio.it/esteri/2019/11/24/news/un-docu-francese-mostra-la-santa-alleanza-tra-gauche-radicale-e-islam-politico-288100/.
 Sylvain Mouillard and Bernadette Sauvaget, ‘Au Collectif contre l’islamophobie, de la suite dans les données’, Libération, 3 April 2016, https://www.liberation.fr/france/2016/04/03/au-collectif-contre-l-islamophobie-de-la-suite-dans-les-donnees_1443712.
 Jacques Juillard, ‘Jacques Julliard : « Qu’est-ce que c’est l’islamo-gauchisme ? »‘, Le Figaro, 26 August 2016, http://www.lefigaro.fr/vox/politique/2016/08/26/31001-20160826ARTFIG00315-jacques-julliardqu-est-ce-que-l-islamo-gauchisme.php.
 Zanon, ‘Un docu francese mostra la “santa alleanza” tra gauche radicale e islam politico’.
 N. 1390, 13 March 2019. See https://www.facebook.com/1534071683508842/photos/a.1534184653497545/2269128120003191/?type=3&theater
 AFP, ‘Le Collectif contre l’islamophobie, star clivante du feuilleton burkini’, L’Express, 2 September 2016, https://www.lexpress.fr/actualites/1/actualite/le-collectif-contre-l-islamophobie-un-role-clivant-dans-le-feuilleton-burkini_1826685.html. Anthony Cortes and Adrien Mathoux, ‘L’islamisme Derrière La Masque de Marwan Muhammad’, Marianne, 25 May 2018, https://www.pressreader.com/france/marianne-magazine/20180525/283154314326549.
 ‘Islamophobie : plus de 50 personnalités de gauche appellent à manifester le 10 novembre’, Le Parisien, 1 November 2019, http://www.leparisien.fr/societe/plus-de-50-personnalites-appellent-a-manifester-contre-l-islamophobie-le-10-novembre-01-11-2019-8184738.php.
 Giulio Meotti, ‘A Parigi va in scena l’islamobolscevismo’, Il Foglio, 12 November 2019, https://www.ilfoglio.it/esteri/2019/11/12/news/a-parigi-va-in-scena-l-islamobolscevismo-286182/. The feminist activist Caroline de Haas, for this reason, withdrew her signature from the manifesto appeared on the leftist newspaper Libération, although she still took part in the march.
 David Brunat, ‘Crèche attaquée à Toulouse: «Pardonnez-leur car ils ne savent pas ce qu’ils font»‘, Le Figaro, 17 December 2019, https://www.lefigaro.fr/vox/societe/creche-attaquee-a-toulouse-pardonnez-leur-car-ils-ne-savent-pas-ce-qu-ils-font-20191217.
 Mythili Sampathkumar, ‘The New York Times Is Refusing to Use the Term “Female Genital Mutilation”‘, The Independent, 25 April 2017, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/new-york-times-female-genital-mutilation-culturally-loaded-response-a7702221.html.
 Julie Bindel, ‘Why Are so Many Left-Wing Progressives Silent about Islam’s Totalitarian Tendencies?’, UnHerd, 3 April 2018, https://unherd.com/2018/04/many-left-wing-progressives-protest-pope-silent-islams-totalitarian-tendencies-victims-cowardice-overwhelmingly-women/.
 ‘Pride Condemns Islamophobia after “Allah Is Gay” Row Breaks Out’, PinkNews – Gay News, Reviews and Comment from the World’s Most Read Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans News Service (blog), 17 July 2017, https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2017/07/17/pride-in-london-condemns-islamophobia-in-allah-is-gay-row/.
 Maryam Namazie, ‘East London Mosque Has Filed Formal Complaint about CEMB to Pride’, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain – CEMB, 14 July 2017, https://www.ex-muslim.org.uk/2017/07/east-london-mosque-has-filed-formal-complaint-about-cemb-to-pride/.
 ‘Sweden Far-Right Plans Gay Parade in Mainly Muslim Area’, accessed 20 December 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/07/sweden-farright-plans-gay-pride-muslim-area-lgbt-150728180328656.html.
 ‘Pompei. Forza Nuova: “No al Gay Pride nella città della Madonna del Rosario”‘, LaRampa.it (blog), 19 February 2018, http://www.larampa.it/2018/02/19/pompei-forza-nuova-no-gay-pride-citta-madonnaderosario/.
 As Manea lucidly showed after conducting extensive analysis on “sharia courts” in the UK Manea, Women and Shari’a Law.
 See for instance Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, ‘Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham (1997 — 2013)’, accessed 29 August 2019, https://www.rotherham.gov.uk/downloads/file/1407/independent_inquiry_cse_in_rotherham.